Providing guidance to persons seeking to comply with the City’s campaign, lobbying and governmental ethics rules is a core function of the Ethics Commission. In addition to the information on the Compliance pages of this website, the Commission provides such guidance in a number of ways.
Informal advice is provided by Commission Staff and is provided over the phone or by email. More complex questions that require research may take longer to receive a response. If the requester, having disclosed all the material facts, receives advice from Staff and acts in accordance with the advice, that may serve as a mitigating circumstance in any subsequent enforcement proceeding with the potential to fully mitigate any penalties. To request informal advice, call 415-252-3100 or email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opinions are given through a formal vote of the Ethics Commission at a public meeting. After the requester asks for an opinion of the Commission, Staff drafts a proposed opinion and agendizes it for a hearing at a subsequent Commission meeting. Once adopted by the Commission, an opinion provides the requester with immunity from subsequent enforcement if the material facts are as stated in the opinion request, the City Attorney and District Attorney concur in the opinion, and the requester acts in accordance with the opinion.
Both informal advice and opinions always address only the requester’s prospective actions – actions that are planned but that have not yet been taken. The Commission does not provide guidance regarding actions that have already been taken, actions of someone other than the requester (unless the requester is authorized to ask on another’s behalf), or hypothetical situations.
Past advice letters of the Ethics Commission are public records and can be viewed online. The Commission has adopted regulations to govern the provision of opinions and informal advice. For details regarding the process and requirements for requesting an opinion or informal advice, please review the regulations.
The Commission produces a number of informational publications regarding the City’s campaign, lobbying and governmental ethics rules, and also provides access to similar publications produced by the state Fair Political Practices Commission. These are found on the on the Compliance pages of this website under each subject area.
The Commission also produces sfETHICS fyi, a newsletter that includes important reminders regarding City ethics laws and regulations. The newsletter is sent to City Officials and employees via e-mail. Past issues of the newsletter are available in the archive.
Other Assistance and Training
The Commission provides a number of trainings, both in person and online. Sign up for the Commission’s interested persons list to learn about in person trainings, which includes its trainings for candidates and committee treasurers. Certain other trainings, including trainings for Netfile users, may be provided upon request. Online trainings include those concerning the lobbyist ordinance and the joint bi-annual training with the City Attorney’s office regarding governmental ethics and open government.
The Ethics Commission is also available for presentations and assistance to help officials and employees effectively navigate potential ethical issues and avoid conflicts of interests in their governmental duties. To request a presentation or for more information, contact the Ethics Commission’s Engagement and Compliance Staff at (415) 252-3102.
Regulations governing the provision of opinions and advice can be found on the Ethics Commission website.